August Film Diary, Part 2

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This month I’m introducing something new to help make these posts easier for me for put together, namely a Letterboxd account where you can see the complete list of everything I watched in August. I update as I watch, so take a look at my diary there anytime you’re curious, link will be in the sidebar.

August highlights and thoughts:

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Jock Mahoney! I watched two of his movies, Joe Dakota and The Last of the Fast Guns and loved his easy-going, unruffled persona, like the best action heroes. The bit in Joe Dakota where he’s pushed into oil, and then strolls coolly back into town as a literal “man in black” was amusing, and the whole movie was an entertaining story similar to Bad Day at Black Rock, with a great cast (Charles McGraw as the villain). Fast Guns was great-looking and nicely plotted, with Mahoney as an aging gunfighter hired to find a man’s long-lost brother, who turns out to be one of the many colourful characters who “helps” him search. A couple of really great discoveries.

The excellent documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself, an interesting piece of film criticism on top of being a detailed cinematic tour of the various sites and sides of “L.A.” as seen through different directors and genres. The sections about minorities, corruption and Bunker Hill were standouts.

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I saw a lot of Rory Calhoun and Jeff Chandler westerns. Enjoyed all the Calhoun ones but my favourite was Red Sundown, a film packed with story that kept unfolding in rewarding ways and introduced memorable characters (like Grant Williams’ chilling gunman Chet Swann) right up to the final minutes. Also loved Powder River, the twist on Wyatt Earp/Doc Holliday with Corinne Calvet getting some fantastic dialogue as the saloon owner. Great bit in that one with a river ferry cut adrift while carrying a stagecoach. Raw Edge was a good, darker look at the cutthroat competition over the desirable women in town (Yvonne De Carlo and Mara Corday) after the lynching of an innocent man shakes up the community. Yellow Tomahawk was action-packed, with a graphic Indian attack/massacre. Four Guns to the Border was great, directed with much style by Richard Carlson and telling a gripping story about bank robbers diverted from their escape by the plight of a farmer and his daughter. Great cast and images in this one, including Colleen Miller and Calhoun in the rain, and two strong female roles to add to the handful of others in these Calhoun films.

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I liked all the Chandler movies too, with War Arrow placing lowest in this batch and Two Flags West on top, for its twisty plot, fantastic cast (Joseph Cotton, Cornel Wilde, Linda Darnell…), and Chandler’s fine performance as an unlikable hothead. I see Drango gets some poor reviews for being dour, but I quite liked its cinematography and its complex, interesting look at the difficulties of the “conqueror,” a Union soldier, attempting to gain trust and mend rifts during Reconstruction. Calhoun is The Spoilers, playing a nasty schemer who deserves the beating he gets from Chandler in this version of the famous fight scene. Makes me want to revisit the 1942 version soon. Man in the Shadow was an intense noir set in the West, with Chandler as the sheriff who “makes trouble” by refusing to overlook the murder of a Mexican farmhand. His determination rattles the tyrannical (yet insecure, when it comes to his daughter) rancher Orson Welles, and getting justice will destroy Chandler, Welles or the town’s economy. Wanted to note how fun it is to see the same faces in so many of these westerns: John McIntire, Noah Beery Jr, Lee Van Cleef, Neville Brand…

Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison was a gritty prison expose with a super cast. Love seeing Ted De Corsia get as much screen time as possible, here as a sadistic warden whose rule is ended after much tragedy and hard work by reformer David Brian.

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Saw plenty of excellent performances by women this month: Nicole Kidman alienating her loved ones as she works through the grief of losing a child in Rabbit Hole. Famke Janssen as a broken-down pool shark with a habit of making terrible decisions, trying to win back custody of her son in Turn the River. Jennifer Lawrence as the mature teen fighting through an Ozarks mess of criminals and lowlifes to find her father and save her home and family in Winter’s Bone. Reese Witherspoon trying to find herself and a new direction on the Pacific Crest Trail after her mother’s death sends her life spiraling out of control in Wild. Lightweight, family-friendly Honey was a pleasant surprise, with Jessica Alba as a dancer who learns the hard way about the casting couch and leaves the business so she can help inner-city youth build their talent and self-esteem.

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From the horror/sci fi dept: Scream and Scream Again was a bit of a mess story-wise, but watching Vincent Price (with cameos by Lee and Cushing) is time well spent. Corridors of Blood was a “horror-fied” history lesson, about the first surgeon to develop and test anesthetic. Unfortunately that genius (Boris Karloff) also takes tragic detours into the underworld (where he meets Christopher Lee) and addictionto his concoction in the course of his struggle to convince the establishment that “pain and the knife” need not be inseparable. Not of this Earth was a fantastic Roger Corman movie with Paul Birch as one of a handful of vampire aliens among us. He just barely, awkwardly passes as human (so long as he hides his dead white eyes behind sunglasses), but is convincing enough to hire nurse Beverly Garland to keep him filled up with blood, but his planet’s world domination plan falls apart. Nice creepy ending. It Came From Outer Space has Richard Carlson desperately trying to convince everyone that he’s no nut when he insists a fallen meteor brought with it body-snatching aliens. Great one-eyed hairy monster and effects in this one! Sunshine was a Solaris-like voyage into far space madness with a crew sent on a mission to save mankind, and taking an ill-advised detour when they discover a long-lost craft and its psycho survivor.

My “blind Spot” classic for the month was the beautiful L’Atalante.

I haven’t forgotten about all my Joel McCrea viewing! I’ll do a roundup of those soon and just got word of something very cool relating to Joel.

As always, I welcome any thoughts and recommendations or questions about anything listed at Letterboxd that I didn’t mention here.

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27 thoughts on “August Film Diary, Part 2”

  1. I loved Winter’s Bone! Actually, I don’t remember much of the plot, but I remember thinking Jennifer Lawrence was fantastic. Also, Wild with Reese Witherspoon is terrific, too. I often think of that scene where she throws her hiking boot off the cliff.

    I saw three remarkable (to me) films this past month. Have you seen The Fundamentals of Caring with Paul Rudd? Interesting spin on the road trip movie, and some very funny lines. Also saw the incredibly charming Henri Henri, a French-Canadian film which I absolutely LOVED. (I’m recommending it to everyone I know.) Lastly, we just saw The Confirmation, which is a bit of a grind – you have to be in the mood – but it’s a wonderful depiction of a father-son relationship. Clive Owen is AMAZING in it.

    1. Excellent, thanks for suggesting those, do you mostly watch newer movies via netflix?

      Winter’s Bone plays very much like a noir, and Lawrence was great in it, hard as nails. Yes to that scene in Wild, another that really stuck with me was when the little boy sang her the song and she walked a bit down the trail before totally falling apart. Something that movie and Reese did so well, was the way women never know which man will be dangerous, every time she’s approached in the middle of nowhere you really feel her caution and the terror in the case of the actual threats. Wonderful to see this many powerful roles for women both in the newer and classic films, and good actresses in them, the more the better.

      1. Yes, exactly – you never know which man will be dangerous, and you could feel Witherspoon’s wariness. Those scenes, where she meets men along the trail, were some of the most tense!

        And isn’t it a shame, in a world where there are so many kind, wonderful men, that a lone woman has to immediately distrust all of them until they’re proven trustworthy. But, you have to.

        1. That’s right and as it turned out there was only one scary meeting, and the one that freaked her out most was comically harmless. Really liked that movie and btw Reese never ages!!

  2. Westerns always work and a couple of nifty sci-fi titles in there. Not of This Earth a lot of fun and It came From Outer Space a genre classic.. In the poster vault, I have that Karloff one sheet. A nice treasure.

    1. So many good movies, I think the only bombs were the ones I didn’t bother mentioning, like the POINT BREAK remake. That Karloff is a great poster, I initially thought it was a modern dvd cover.

  3. Great selection Kristina with many of
    my fave movies listed.
    Recently got the French Blu Ray of
    IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE,and I understand
    Universal USA are soon to release it in 3D.
    I have not embraced the home cinema 3D thing yet,
    I still feel it’s a “cinematic” experience.
    Twilight Time are soon to release the underrated
    THE MAD MAGICIAN in 3D but at the moment I’m still happy
    to have the “flat” version in high-def.
    Love the Mahoney flicks…parts of LAST OF THE FAST
    GUNS seem to pre-figure the Spaghetti’s.
    George Sherman actually made a pretty decent
    Spaghetti VENDETTA (aka MURIETTA) with Jeff
    Hunter and Arthur Kennedy-Warner Archive say they
    will release it at some point.
    Great to see some love for the underrated DRANGO
    further demonstration of Chandler’s liking for playing
    anti heroes. Also great to see that you really like
    POWDER RIVER (unlike Laura and Colin grrr! 🙂
    Interestingly, Laura and myself had a discussion about
    our fave “square” actors…Carlson was at the top of
    the list followed by Macdonald Carey,William Lundigan,
    and John Lund.We felt Barry Sullivan was borderline because
    of the “edgy” characters he played in some films.

    i

    1. I haven’t seen anything in 3D for ages, pretty sure the last was when I was a kid, a TV broadcast of HOUSE OF WAX where we had to go pick up those cardboard red/blue glasses at the variety store. Loved the Mahoney movies and totally agree about FAST GUNS having a spaghetti look and pace, just all-around cool movies and star. I took a picture of my screen during JOE DAKOTA when Claude Akins, McGraw and Lee Van Cleef were standing together, movie fan thrills. I very much liked Chandler in DRANGO, and POWDER RIVER–from the can of peaches to Calvet’s wickedly funny comebacks to the stuffy ladies to the gold dust leaking out of the bag–lots to enjoy in that one. And now you mentioned Colin, I just realized I also watched (and liked) a movie he recommended, HARRY BLACK AND THE TIGER, but forgot to mention it! Will include it in the next roundup.

    2. Forgot to say those are all hip “squares” in my book, and agree about Sullivan having more edge– recently saw his THE GANGSTER. John Lund, I think it was in Cameron Crowe’s book on Billy Wilder (?) both of them saying how underrated Lund was.

      1. Hi Kristina,
        I’ve just watched John Lund in “BRONCO BUSTER” (sans mustache) and thought to myself “I’ve never seen him in a part quite like this before!” He plays a champion rodeo rider. As you say, under-rated.

        Very much share your liking for both Rory Calhoun & Jock Mahoney in those westerns you mentioned having watched. “RED SUNDOWN” really is top-notch. Have you tried Mahoney in “SHOWDOWN AT ABILENE” yet? An enjoyable western that contains one of Jocko’s fantastic leaps off a veranda onto the bad guy…….

        1. Sounds good, haven’t seen (and have noted on my endless watchlist) the Lund and Mahoney titles you mentioned! Lund was in a couple of my recent viewings, FIVE GUNS WEST and BATTLE AT APACHE PASS, really enjoy him.

        2. Hey, Jerry, I just saw “BRONCO BUSTER” too (a few weeks ago)–had never seen it in color (and barely remembered it) and bought a European release. I thought it was very good, first thought it wouldn’t have much and was kind of like a much less inspired “LUSTY MEN ” variant with similar story ideas–but then it did have its own character and turned out to have a lot going for it (except a cursory ending). I guess there really are not many Budd Boettichers movie I don’t like, if any.

  4. Some great stuff – I need to catch up on my Westerns, so now I know where to start! I need to revisit WINTER’S BONE soon. I think I already mentioned to you that I’m going to buy the Blu-ray of WILD for that one scene with the boy and his llama. An amazing moment. Great stuff – keep ’em coming!

    1. WILD ended up being a real tearjerker, starting with that moment. So many good newer movies out there, just need to look and get recommendations.

      1. Same here. I see so few current movies although I live within walking distance of a movie theater!

  5. I must admit that I hi-jacked the term “square actors” off Laura,
    it’s a goodie and so true.”Square Actors” of course is a term of endearment
    for those “non-showy” actors we admire so much.
    Great to see some love for John Lund here,I always liked his performances
    as the “decent” cavalry officer in big scale Fifties Westerns like BATTLE AT APACHE
    PASS,WHITE FEATHER and CHIEF CRAZY HORSE.

    1. Squares, and the term, are fine by me, those reliable non-showy people are so often the backbone of movies. By coincidence I happened to pull WHITE FEATHER for “soon” viewing before you made this comment, so I guess I’m meant to see it asap! Another group worth ranking: the underrated “pretty” faces, like Jeffrey Hunter et al. Sort of related, today I had a Victor Mature double feature of THE LONG HAUL & PICKUP ALLEY.

  6. Other “pretty” actors of note-John Derek
    and Rick Jason.
    Prettiest of them all the incredibly handsome
    Garner McKaY,in his prime associated with the most
    gorgeous actresses in Hollywood-but he gave it all up
    to live a somewhat Hemingwayesque lifestyle and also
    wrote books.
    Another “pretty” actor (and Garner McKay look a like)
    was Tony Young who I certainly wish had done more films.
    Jerry if he’s still with this thread will certainly fill us in on
    McKay and Young’s “cult” Western TV shows.
    Be interested to hear your take on WHITE FEATHER-
    in fact Colin was considering reviewing this film I do believe.
    PICKUP ALLEY is OK and it’s fun seeing Carry On’s Sid James
    playing an American.
    THE LONG HAUL is much better a great combo of Noir,
    Kitchen Sink drama and Trucker Thriller.
    Returning to your choices Kristina,wasn’t INSIDE THE WALLS
    OF FOLSOM PRISON a total blast.

    1. Yeah totally agree on your takes re the 2 Mature films, really liked THE LONG HAUL. Yes FOLSOM was very good, love that cast, De Corsia was super and the fate of the stool pigeons and the breakout were great, really memorable. Good additions, I worked through that whole COMBAT! dvd set some years back, enjoyed Rick Jason there.

  7. Some interesting “pretty boy” additions, John.
    Gardner McKay first came onto my radar as Lt. Kelly in the very good but now extremely hard-to-find TVer “BOOTS AND SADDLES”, all filmed on location at Kanab, Utah (wish that would become available) and then in “ADVENTURES IN PARADISE” which was pretty fair but as you say his film career was low on his list of priorities!

    How about Doug McClure, Robert Conrad and Troy Donahue, Kristina? They all fit the bill too……

    1. More great names, McClure looked forever young, and as for Donahue this reminds me, I haven’t seen any of his teen/romance movies! Just IMITATION OF LIFE from those years, and then several of his later movies.

  8. I know you’ve moved on, so will just try to keep it short here but just have to say you saw some lifetime favorites of mine among the Westerns, two of them especially. I’ve proselytized often about “The Last of the Fast Guns” as my choice of the most underrated of all great Westerns–still almost unknown, but it’s a beautiful parable of redemption and I don’t know where director George Sherman (who I take up for generally as an underrated master) found those awesome Mexican locations that give it a lot of its character.

    Glad you like Jock Mahoney, a personal favorite of mine–he’ll always be best remembered as a great stuntman but I believe he had made it as a star on this level of film, but unfortunately after just a few years of movies like this, this level of movie just kind of ended with the 60s. Still, there are more good movies with him for you to see. Next to “Fast Guns” the other one you saw “Joe Dakota” is my favorite–really love it; it too has an underrated director Richard Bartlett (a small body of work in his case) and Bartlett especially liked Mahoney and has him in four films, the others are “I’ve Lived Before” (as unusual as it sounds) “Slim Carter” (charming, not a Western it’s a “Hollywood” movie) and “Money, Women and Guns” my favorite of others starring Mahoney and not just for that great title. “Showdown at Abilene” and “A Day of Fury” are other good Westerns with Mahoney, and he’s in a very captivating sci-fi “The Land Unknown.” Also, he has a strong supporting role–dominating the opening reels–of great Sirk “A Time to Love and a Time to Die.”

    The other one you saw that I love is “Four Guns to the Border”–since I go on about this every time the title comes up I won’t do that now except to reiterate that what you say “Colleen Miller and Calhoun in the rain” is actually a stunning six minute sequence (making me wish Richard Carlson had enjoyed more of a career as a director) that remains for me one of the most erotic stretches of cinema ever and has been since I saw in 1954 at the age of 10.

    I also love “Red Sundown”–I especially like the way Calhoun is doubled in the first third of the film by weary, reflective older gunfighter James Millican (his last movie and he is great in the role!) and in the last third by, as you say, the “chilling” younger gunman played by Grant Williams. As the hero, Calhoun has to resolve who he is and what he wants his life to be.

    I love Rory Calhoun–you’ve made a great dive into his best work, so will just say if you haven’t seen Jacques Tourneur’s wonderful “Way of a Gaucho” put that on your list, and two by George Sherman (“The Last of the Fast Guns”) that are also among his best–“Dawn at Socorro” and “The Treasure of Pancho Villa.” Just to tie all this together, “Pancho” has Gilbert Roland paired with Calhoun, great actor who worked so well opposite Mahoney in “The Last of the Fast Guns.”

    1. Thanks so much for these thoughts and suggestions! Loved so much of what I saw this month and agree with much of what you said: those Mexican locations in THE LAST OF THE FAST GUNS were gorgeous and can’t say enough how much I enjoyed that movie. Eager to see more Mahoney, noted all the ones you named and found a couple on YT already. FOUR GUNS looked so good, first time seeing a movie Carlson directed and was really impressed. I was so brief in my summary but you describe so well how beautiful and memorable that sequence is. Getting into treasures like these just makes me hungrier for more movies 🙂

  9. Great to have your comments here, Blake, as always showing great love for favourite films. BTW the examples you mention are also great favourites of mine.
    When I finally acquired a ‘scope transfer recently of “LAST OF THE FAST GUNS” I watched it of course. Seen it several times before but never in the correct ‘scope aspect so it really was like viewing for the first time. Stunning film.
    Rory Calhoun has been a favourite with me for many years but the more I (re)watch his films the more I see in him. Increasingly. In this case ‘familiarity breeds admiration’.

    1. As I looked through Rory’s credits to see what I had in my collection, noticed so many I haven’t seen yet. Luckily there are a lot of his on YT, not all ideal quality but better than nothing. Really appreciate you all stopping by with comments and tips on what to watch next, for me the favourite part of watching and sharing my viewing!

  10. Loved your rundown on your viewing as always, Kristina, especially the Mahoney and Calhoun films, and also enjoying the ensuing discussion! SHOWDOWN AT ABILENE is definitely a good Mahoney to watch, wonderful mix of him as an actor and stuntman. 🙂

    Best wishes,
    Laura

    1. I love the discussion more than anything! The main reason I do these. The suggestions and insight everyone brings here are SO enjoyable and educational, and like you said, make me want to watch more movies. I will make a priority of seeing Mahoney and ABILENE, thanks for the input!

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